A report on Christmas Eve painted a portrait of national despair. Another report, this Boxing Day, offers us the image of the people of Florida having elected Ebeneezer Scrooge governor of Florida.
Do we despair? Do we blame the poor for their plight? Do huddle in the tattered remnants of an earlier age of largely false enthusiastic optimism, grasping what little remains to us, casting aspersions on the moral rectitude of those victimized by the false schemes of snake oil salesmen of market fundamentalists?
Of course, it seems we may well do just those things. All the same, I hope, beyond any evidence or reason to the contrary, because there is nothing inevitable about the future. Despair, as nonsensical and irrational as the sunny-eyed optimism of which it is just the flip-side, grants us nothing but the ridiculous notion that we have a grasp of the suture that is just not ours to have.
In the morally obtuse preachments of school marms like Rick Scott, we may rest for a moment if only because it assures us that we are not they. The bottom may have collapsed, but still have a toehold upon the ledge; those who have lost everything have no one but themselves to blame. If any such sentiments are less American, I cannot really imagine them.
The reason I have hope is simple - the future is in our hands. We may not believe it. We may think we need to listen to others for how we are to be America, but, really we don't. Climbing out of the pit in which we find ourselves, largely the making of the same people lecturing us now on our moral laxity, insisting we need to expect less from the future, begins with no longer heeding those voices that claim authority over us. We must understand this before we understand anything else - those same "leaders" who tell us that our choices are curtailed by "natural" economic forces, by the rules of the game that support those institutions that rained down such destruction upon us no longer have a hold over us.
We are free. We always were, but now, in an age of loss, we can also lose the illusion that we are chained to cruel fate, disguised as the economic marketplace.
Having lost so much, my hope lies that we can also lose our reliance upon those who insist their voices must be heeded. My hope lies in the possibility that we might just stand up, wipe the dust from the wreckage off our tattered clothes, and say together, "No." That would be the first step in the long journey to making us who we could be. It takes courage, to be sure. It also takes solidarity, recognizing that all of us, together, suffer from the misrule of those for so long who viewed their role as "leader" as natural, even inevitable.
This is the reason I do not despair. This is the reason that, even in the midst of fear and anger, I believe it is possible we may yet, together, move forward, lifting our hands out to those who have already fallen, instead of glancing away in fear and disgust.